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Ask the Midwife
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Athletes: The Pregnancy Challenge

woman-rockclimbing-200wIs Exercising Different For An Athlete?

You are an athlete, very fit. You have a coach, or maybe an entire support team. Now you are adding a midwife or other health care professional to your team. A new goal on your horizon. LISTEN to your new expanded team. This information is provided ONLY to spark questions and provide excitement for the changes in your new path. 

How Hard Can I Exercise?

Ultimately your team helps you decide, and what sport you are involved in plays a part. Most fit athletes exercise within the range of "somewhat difficult to difficult" in the first half of their pregnancy, and then shift down to "somewhat difficult" in the second half. Athletes may continue interval training in the first half of pregnancy. If you are very athletic and want to continue more strenuous workouts, monitor your resting heart rate to prevent over-training. 

How To Monitor Heart Rate To Prevent Over Training

  1. First thing in the morning, before rising out of bed, take your resting heart-rate, counting for a full minute.
  2. Then, sit up at the side of your bed, with your feet dangling over the side, and take your heart-rate again.
  3. Next, figure the difference between the two readings; it should be less than 10 beats per minute.
  4. If the difference between your first heart-rate reading and the second is more than 10 beats per minute, then you are over-training and should scale back the intensity and duration of your workouts.

The Pregnancy Challenge

In the last half of pregnancy it is important to mentally downshift. After developing the ability to push through pain, ignoring internal cues to either stop or slow down, now you must LISTEN to your body with new focus. Athletes tend to be intensely competitive and ambitious in their quest to be the best, but for just a few months your end goal has changed. While these drives and skills aided in your athletic success, they can greatly increase the risk of injury during the last half of pregnancy.

Many female athletes place a high value on what their bodies are able to achieve, and so pregnancy can seem to be a time of restriction, loss of athletic prowess, and perhaps loss of identity. Switch up your thinking, pregnancy can provide you with an opportunity to cross train. Cross training can provide the athlete-mom-to-be clear athletic benefits. It can widen her skill-set, possibly give over worked areas critical rest periods, which could enhance overall athletic ability. After 20 weeks gestation, swimming, yoga, prenatal Pilates, and aqua-aerobic are all good choices.